Cardiff's Millennium Stadium will host the opening ceremony and a double-header to launch the 2013 World Cup, it was announced today.

Co-hosts Wales will get the 14-team tournament under way on Saturday, October 26, with a cross-group match against qualifiers Italy, followed by England's group A clash with favourites Australia.

In a late change of plan, the organisers decided not to announce the venues for the closing stages but Wembley is thought to be favourite to host both semi-finals with the November 30 final set to go to Old Trafford.

Ireland's attractive fixture with Australia is being taken to the rugby union stronghold of Thomond Park in Limerick.

Ireland will also play England at Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadium and will take on Fiji at the Spotland Stadium in Rochdale.

The full list of dates and kick-offs will be confirmed when the broadcast schedule is finalised.

If the group fixtures go to form, Australia will meet Wales in the quarter-finals in Wrexham, with England taking on the third-placed team from group B at Wigan's DW Stadium.

Headingley and Warrington's enlarged Halliwell Jones Stadium are the other quarter-final venues.

The groups are:

A: England, Australia, Ireland, Fiji (three to qualify).

B: New Zealand, France, Papua New Guinea, Samoa (three to qualify).

C: Scotland, Tonga, Italy (one to qualify).

D: Wales, United States, Cook Islands (one to qualify).